Mountain Studies Institute, Forest Health Partnership offer forest monitoring training

By Aaron Kimple

Special to The SUN

Forest health is a term we hear a lot about these days. We hear it in relation to bugs and wildfire and water quality. But what does it mean to have a healthy forest and how do we know if a forest is healthy?

San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership and Mountain Studies Institute will be offering opportunities to learn about and measure forest health throughout the summer.

The Citizen Science Brigade will have a kick-off meeting tomorrow, April 18, 5:30-7 p.m., at the Ross Aragon Community Center in Pagosa Springs. We will talk about what we found in previous monitoring of Cloman, what monitoring means and the activities it includes, and what we have planned.

Are we doing the right thing? Forest thinning is a common practice. It is used to reduced fire risk and restore ecological health. But how many trees do you remove? What do you do with the shrubs? Have you achieved your goals?

According to Aaron Kimple, program coordinator for San Juan Headwaters, “The thinning treatments that are applied to different areas are dependent on the goals for those areas. It is important to set up monitoring methods to make sure we meet those goals.”

Long-term monitoring helps direct future thinning efforts. The monitoring shows how the forest responds to thinning. It can inform how we approach thinning in the future. If, over the years, the forest demonstrates responses that are not consistent with management goals, thinning efforts can be adjusted.

It’s about more than just trees. Thinning forests can have unintended consequences. They can open the forest to different species of plants and affect how animals live within the landscape. Citizen Science monitoring includes ways to record observations about what animals are using an area and document any signs of invasive species, bug infestations or other indicators of stress to the system. The intention is to make the system function in a healthy manner and provide the necessary habitat for species of interest. Monitoring can help make sure we are meeting those goals.

We need you. There is a lot of forest out there and there is a lot of monitoring to do. You can help us meet the monitoring needs. Whether you are a local homeowner interested in forest fire risk, enjoy identifying wildlife, a birder or an outdoor enthusiast, we invite you to attend the upcoming workshop.

For more information, contact Aaron Kimple at or 382-6908. Register at

This story was posted on April 17, 2014.